Friday, December 21, 2007

Current Faith Issues and Controversies


Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Welcome to a blog you can trust. As a journalist with more than 20 years of experience, I offer straight news, opinion, and humor – all based on legitimate sources. Send comments and ideas about ethics and faith issues to njfaithforum@aol.com.

What's new?
New resource for grieving parents
Christian Animal Rights Movements Seeks Supporters
Sharpton Continues to Lash Out at Mormons
Sharpton Is an Anti-Mormon Bigot
Media Shows Bias in Kent State Coverage
Sharpton Has No Right to Slam Imus
Purim Reflections: It Happened Again
Finding the Art of Joy
A Father's Tribute to His Late Son
Read how one father uses his blog to cope with his son's passing.
Why Does Pope See Bob Dylan as False Prophet?
In San Diego, a Disingenous Start to Lent
Master of the Jinn, by blog contributor Irving Karchmar, is now available as an e-book.
Is Ted Haggard on the Straight and Narrow?

Check Out My Other Posts!

Complete Blog Index
Samples of my journalistic work

Visit My Personal Blog
I have just started a blog in memory of my beloved cat companions.
I Will Remember You

New resource for grieving parents




By Lisa Haddock

Talented blogger Alan D. Busch has released Snapshots: In Memory of Ben, a book about the loss of his son. If it's as good as his blog (The Book of Ben), we can expect a first-rate resource for anyone dealing with grief.

Victoria Valentine of Water Forest Press writes, "The author’s words are honest and candid, as he shares family history and relays with impact, the untimely death of his beloved son. A ‘straightforward—deep-from-the-heart-and-soul read.’"

I wish Alan the best with this new project. To learn more about the book, visit the
Snapshots Web site.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Christian Animal Rights Movement Seeks Supporters

Editor's note: This notice, about the Christian Yorade Movement, was sent by animal rights acitvist Jan Fredericks. She is the founder of God's Creatures Ministry.

The Holy Spirit is trying to speak to our hearts to return to the first commission God gave humans before the fall, to have dominion over (yorade -- which means to come down to; to have communion with and compassion for) the animals. This commission was given in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, when all of God's creation lived in harmony, when people and animals ate vegetation. Read more ....

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Sharpton Continues to Lash Out at Mormons

Al Sharpton: Will he ever shut up about Mormons?

By Lisa Haddock

Editor's note: I am not a Mormon, nor do I have any connection to the LDS Church.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is still making excuses for saying Mormons don't believe in God. (See news story.) And in the process, he continues to insult the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

ABC4.com reports that Sharpton made these statements to various media outlets after his initial comments on Mormon religious beliefs.

"If ... any member of the Mormon Church was inadvertently harmed or bothered or in any way aggrieved because of the distortion of my words or the lack of clarity of my words, they have my sincere apology." Note: It's not his fault. His words were distorted.

"If prior to '65 or '78 - whenever it was - they [Mormons] did not see blacks as equal. I do not believe that as real worshippers of God because I do not believe God distinguishes between people."

"What is bigoted about asking ... about a denomination based on racism?"

"I believe if any religion preaches supremacy or unequalness, they are not true believers in God."

Who cares what you believe, Al? You're not the pope.

Recent reports say Sharpton called LDS church Elders to apologize for his hateful, bone headed-remarks. According AHN.com, an LDS spokesman says the church considers the matter closed.

The Bible says out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Sharpton's comments show a true bias against LDS Church. Let's see whether Sharpton can truly repent publicly for his bigotry, and, for once, admit he is wrong.

To learn more about LDS beliefs, visit Mormon.org.

See my previous posts about Sharpton:
Sharpton Is an Anti-Mormon Bigot
Sharpton Has No Right to Slam Imus

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Al Sharpton Is an Anti-Mormon Bigot


The mouth that roared: Al Sharpton.

By Lisa Haddock

I'm taking off the gloves when it comes to the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The so-called civil rights activist publicly insulted the religious beliefs of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In published reports, Sharpton is quoted saying: "As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation."
Of course Mormons believe in God. The church's first article of faith states: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
Who the heck does Sharpton think he is? And what is he talking about? And why is it relevant? As far as I'm concerned, Sharpton has shown himself to be a bigot and a hypocrite. I hope someone, somewhere, has the guts to call Sharpton on his own bigotry and force him to take responsibility.
He hounded Don Imus off the air for his hateful remarks. Someone should hold Sharpton to the same standards. (See my previous post on this issue.)
If Romney has said something negative about Sharpton's beliefs, you can bet the good Reverend would be out calling for a national protest and hand-wringing party.
Maybe Sharpton should travel to Salt Lake City to make a personal apology to Mormon Church President Gordon Hinckley and other Latter-day Saints.
Given the Mormons' emphasis on upright living, I'm sure they would treat him with more compassion than he ever showed towards Imus.

For more about Mormon beliefs, visit the Web site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Media Shows Bias in Kent State Coverage



The burning of the university's ROTC building was part of the buildup to the May 4 shootings. Protesters cut fire hoses and then chanted anti-war slogans as the building burned to the ground. (May41970.com)

By Lisa Haddock

If you're a news junkie like me, you've seen the stories about the newly discovered audiotape of the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970.

Recent reports are remarkably slanted, because, quite simple, they do not put the shootings in context. According to Alan Canfora, the tape reveals the voice of a National Guardsman giving the order to start the shooting, which left four people dead and numerous others injured.


It's important to note that days of lawlessness (including violence against the National Guardsmen) led up to the tragic shootings. (See Wikipedia for timeline.) Buildings were burned (including businesses in downtown Kent). Now what do the business owners of Kent, Ohio, have to do with the Vietnam War? And over a period of days, student-protesters defied repeated non-violent attempts to disperse. They even threw tear gas canisters back at the Guardsmen.

It's my guess that a lot of today's news executives were anti-war hippies back in the day, and their bias is showing. "Four dead in Ohio," the reports say. Well, for those of you under the age of 50, that line is from the Neil Young opus Ohio -- a blistering anti-war anthem. Perhaps these media types are dating themselves?

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer called the shootings "the most tragic episode" in the Vietnam War. What about My Lai? What about the fall of Saigon?

Vietnam was a sad, awful chapter for Americans and more importantly for the people of Southeast Asia.

Anti-war protesters of the Vietnam era had every right to assemble peaceably and voice their complaints against the government. But the Kent State demonstrations were not peaceable. Reckless, violent acts began a tragic chain of events led to the catastrophe of that day.

Those of us who care about truth, accuracy and ethics in the media are obligated to demand better coverage.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sharpton Has No Right to Slam Don Imus


By Lisa Haddock

Radio personality Don Imus is taking a beating for insulting the Rutgers women's baskeball team and quite deservedly so.
I'm not going to repeat his loathsome racist, sexist remarks on my blog, but you can find them on many media outlets, including CBS. The anti-Imus firestorm of criticism is more than justified. Imus was hateful, nasty, and disrespectful. He's been on the radio long enough to know how far is too far.
And clearly, the I Man went way over the line.
But as far as I'm concerned, the Rev. Al Sharpton has no right to take part in the condemnation.
Despite Imus' numerous groveling apologies and explanations, the reverend (and many others) say Imus should lose his job.
That opinion is well-founded, but Sharpton is not the right man to deliver the message. Why? Sharpton is guilty of life-destroying comments he won't back down from.
Let's take a stroll down memory lane.
Twenty years ago, Sharpton was the spokesman for Tawana Brawley, a young black woman who concocted a story that she had been raped by several white men in Wappinger's Falls, N.Y. (See official documents on Court TV.) Though her story was quickly discredited, Sharpton engaged in a non-stop, vicious attack campaign against anyone who disagreed with Brawley. Alleging rampant racism and conspiracy, the civil rights activist made one brutal comment after another.
Sharpton defended Brawley's refusal to meet with the New York state attorney general, comparing the proposed discussion to forcing "someone who watched someone killed in the gas chamber to sit down with Mr. Hitler." (Slate.com)
Slate also reports that, at one point, the preacher alleged that the Irish Republican Army was involved in a coverup.
Sharpton's imprudent comments eventually landed him in court. Steven Pagones, one of the people falsely accused in the hoax, won a slander case against Sharpton and two other activists.Worse still, the reverend has never repented of his comments -- despite the fact that one of the men Brawley falsely accused committed suicide.
What does he say now?
"I've stood by what I believe," he said in 2002, according to the Slate story. The jury who found him guilty for slandering Pagones? Well, according to Sharpton, they're just plain wrong.
My bottom line?
Imus' words are inexcusable. And maybe he should lose his job. But Sharpton is in no position to dish out condemnation when it comes to hateful, damaging speech.
As the Gospel of John says: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone."
Repentance begins with admitting one's sin. At least the foul-mouthed Imus has done that. Sharpton hasn't.

(Imus photo from NNDB.com.)

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Purim Reflections: It Happened Again



The scroll of Esther, which is read at Purim. (Photo from Virtual Beit Midrash.)

Editor's note: Purim was celebrated this year from March 4 to 5. You may find more of Alan D. Busch’s writings at The Book of Ben.

By Alan D. Busch
(Copyright Alan D. Busch, 2007.)

I am torn.
We are to be joyful during the month of Adar.
After all, isn’t it the month when we celebrate Purim, as an observance of national salvation, when good overcame evil and Haman and his sons died on the gallows which he had built for Mordecai?
They hanged Haman and his sons al ha etz, on the gallows. Conversely, the Hebrew etz also means a tree, a symbol of the Jewish people itself, as is Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life.
And if you are wondering about God whose name does not appear in the Megilat Ester, the Scroll of Esther, He was there, just hidden but indisputably present, steering the helm of history through His masterfully skillful use of nissim, His vast, miraculous wonders.
The demise of Haman parallels that of Pharoah. The evildoers met their ends, each in a different manner of death, but which, in both cases, had been intended for the descendants of Jacob whom they despised.
It worked out nicely for us. We survived and the would-be slayers were themselves slain.
However, there remains behind a problem for people who grieve insofar as the injunction to be joyful poses an emotional conundrum for them.
While each joyous holiday in Judaism forges a link in the mesorah, the heritage, of our collective past, we need to remain mindful of our obligation to share the simchas ha yom with our children.
Veshinantam levanecha v’dibarta bam … but,
What if a child dies? What if tragedy of that magnitude befalls us? What then?
How can the presence of grief be reconciled with the joy we are supposed to feel at holiday time? Can happiness be mandated? Are we capable of switching grief on and off and setting it aside until the holiday is over or does it even matter any more after a child dies?

The Fortune of Friendship

I am rich.
We all have, I hope, a quintessentially invaluable friend without whom we would have to redefine our lives. And no, I’m not talking about a spouse or, for that matter, anyone in your family.
Though I suppose it possible such a friend can be a family member, I have found the bond to be paradoxically stronger when, in the absence of blood ties, there is no familial obligation.
I have such a friend.
He and his family have been my lifeline and connection to my community.

Connectedness

It is an absolute prerequisite to be able to grieve healthily. To think we can grieve by ourselves is a mistaken and costly approach to grief management.
Life and the pain of death are qualitatively better and more manageably experienced when we share them with caring people in a community. My shul is my community and its rabbi, my dearest friend.
Rabbi Boruch, whose remarkable family, caring attitude and irrepressible good humor have lifted me up on countless occasions, has been there for me through times thick and thin when, during these past ten years, I have faced a crumbling marriage and divorce, my son Benjamin’s struggle with diabetes and epilepsy, his death and the onset of my Parkinson’s Disease.
Certain moments become fixed in our memories, brief interactions yet leaving long trails behind. It happened one morning after minyan years ago. We were chatting in the fleishig kitchen, just Rabbi Boruch and I, about our children, naturally. We did this sort of thing almost daily but especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Friday mornings when we typically had a few extra minutes before each of us had to run off to work. On Mondays and Thursdays, we did not have the extra time due to the morning’s Torah reading.
I listened intently while he spoke beamingly of his son, Moshe, who was studying in Israel when suddenly he stopped talking.
It was not a mere pause.
“Rabbi, what? You were saying about Moshe?” hoping to encourage him on.
“No, I can’t,” he responded, determined to remain silent.
“Your son is not here anymore. I don’t want you to feel bad!”
This is the sort of person Rabbi Boruch is.

The Beginning

Two years before I met Rabbi Boruch, I used to daven in a small chapel where gathered the daily traditional minyan of the conservative shul to which I belonged.
Steamily hot one summer Shabbat morning, the heat of the morning’s sunshine pierced the brightly illumined stained glass.
The chazzan droned on and on by Musaf.
I was sitting in the front row. The stifling heat weighed heavily upon the silence of the room.
I looked behind me.
Comprised as it was almost entirely of elderly gentlemen, several of them survivors of the Holocaust, every one of them had fallen asleep. The whole minyan except the chazzan and me though I think I was more awake than he.
I looked around. There would be enough for a minyan if I left.
And so I did.

Happening by Rabbi Boruch’s Shul

I needed fifteen minutes to arrive at my destination even at a feverish pace, but I knew happily where I was going as much as where I wanted to be.
Having passed through a wooden archway just off to the right of his garage, there was nowhere else to go but down the steps leading to the basement where I hoped to find the shul.
“This has ‘gotta’ be it,” I muttered to myself.
As I soon discovered, I opened a door to a place oozing with haimishness. Peeking inside, I espied a bearded man with an infectious smile, his cape-like tallis afloat in the breeze of his eager gait, tzitsis flying, heading toward me invitingly.
“Come in. Come in. Bruchim Habaim!
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Before he undertook to build a synagogue adjacent to his house, Rabbi Boruch had opened up his home to the congregation where it met in his converted basement.

Grieving in Shul

It seems invariable.
Melancholia overtakes me whenever I am there.
I don’t think it debilitating, short-lived as each instance is, but it remains a constant in the equation of my grief.
Yet, I know this is where a grieving Jew should be because it is a makom kodesh, a holy place, wherein I feel the presence of my son Ben in its most intense manifestation.
I’ll even venture a remark that may seem odd to some. As strong a pull as it is to stand before Ben’s grave, I struggle to sense his presence. Oh yes. I know his body is beneath my feet, but that’s just it. Ben’s body remains, but his neshuma is elsewhere.
I believe that it hovers in shul when I am there. Ben spends time with me that way, I suppose. It is his way of making up for the time when I sit alone.
I felt it recently on Purim. It is different than any feeling I experience anywhere else including Ben’s room from which I write these words.
You see, no sooner than I take my seat in the row behind my dear friend, Rabbi Boruch, I look over the mechitza to the yahrzeit panels on the south wall and see Ben’s name, the eleventh one in the first column on the first panel.
Though I fully expect this grief, I am thankful to take my seat each time. We have a tradition in shul life that one’s seat becomes his set place, a makom kavua.
I should tell you Ben was not a regular shul-goer. His seat is next to mine.
Nobody else sits there.
Whether it be the mystery of Purim, the revelry of Simchas Torah or the trepidation of Yom Kippur, my son remains by my side.
Other fathers have their sons sitting next to them. I miss that but I possess something they do not-the certainty my son lived a life abundant in loving-kindness.
Time moves forward inexorably. It pauses for no one. That Purim morning I lamented how much time has passed without Ben.
I am daily reminded his absence is forever. No matter though how many years have already gone by or however many are yet to come, Ben’s death will always be for me in the present tense.
I will never say: “Once upon a time I had a son named Ben.”
I won't tell you I'm not glad to be alive because I know I am a better person for having known and loved Ben.
He taught me so much.
Still ... know there are moments when I am filled with guilt that it was he and not I.

Glossary of Italicized Terms

Adar: Hebrew month during which Purim is observed.
Al ha etz: on the gallows
Etz: tree
Etz Chaim: Tree of Life
Megilat Ester: Scroll of Esther
Nissim: miracles
Mesorah: heritage
Simchas ha yom: joy of the day
Veshinantam levanecha v’dibarta bam: Thou shalt teach them (commandments) to thy children and speak of them …
Shul: synagogue
Fleishig: having to do with meat
Daven: pray
Minyan: a prayer quorem of at least ten men
Chazzan: cantor
Musaf: additional service
Haimishness: social atmosphere characterized by warmth, togetherness and hospitality
Tallis: prayer shawl
Tzistis: wound and knotted ritual fringes looped through the four corners of the tallis
Bruchim Habaim: Welcome
Makom kodesh: holy place
Neshuma: soul
Mechitza: partition dividing men’s from women’s section in an Orthodox synagogue.
Yahrzeit: anniversary of a death
Makom kavua: a set place

Read Busch's Tribute to His Late Son

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finding the Art of Joy

Louvre.fr

By Lisa Haddock

I live in a permanent state of pessimism. And as for living in the moment? Forget it.

Despite my melancholy nature, I had an uncommon flash of joy – courtesy of the Louvre Web site.

Last night, for the umpteenth time in my life, I looked at the Nike of Samothrace, the 2,000-year-old Winged Goddess of Victory.

Thanks to my liberal arts education, I knew that this ancient Greek statue represents the fleeting nature of victory. Like a bird, she can fly away at any moment.

But here’s what occurred to me last night.

This beautiful piece of stone is a monument to the human spirit. No matter how difficult life can be, joy can be found in the human heart. Victory, winged and fleeting as she is, does sometimes touch the ground.

How cool is that?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Father's Tribute to His Late Son

Alan D. Busch has put together a first-rate blog that I recommend for anyone dealing with grief.

As Alan describes his project, "The Book of Ben" is a father's response to the life-shattering experience of losing his first-born child, Benjamin Z"L. It is an ongoing attempt to pick up the shattered pieces and put them back together again although what reemerges is never quite the same as the original. I do hope it serves to remind us there are no guarantees of tomorrow, hugs are for today and yesterday's tragedy is forever.

A recent post says, quite beautifully, "The absolute enormity of a child’s death leaves one feeling so insignificant, so powerlessly tiny. To have to navigate these treacherous waters daily is no simple task as we are invariably reminded of how vast is God’s ocean while we remain adrift in such a small boat!"

I offer all my best to this courageous blogger! Please show your support by visiting the site.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Why Does Pope See Bob Dylan as False Prophet?

The late Pope John Paul II greeting Bob Dylan in 1997. (Newsday)


By Lisa Haddock

Pope Benedict XVI has again expressed his disdain for popular music, according to a report published by March 9, 2007, by The Sydney Morning Herald.

In a new memoir, the current pontiff writes that he thinks of legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan as a false prophet. He describes his uneasiness about Dylan's performance at a youth conference in 1997 – attended by Pope John II. At the time, Benedict (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) was chief enforcer of Catholic doctrine.

"There was reason to be skeptical. I was, and in some ways I still am – over whether it was really right to allow this type of 'prophet' to appear."

His attitude stands in contrast to that of Pope John Paul II, who reached young people in a language they understood. In fact, John Paul II quoted Dylan's song Blowing in the Wind at that 1997 conference, which was attended by 300,000 young people. The late pope held popular musicians – including Bono, Ricky Martin and B.B. King – in the highest regard. (See MTV obituary.)

The current pope has written:

"Pop music .. ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. 'Rock' on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship." (Statement on Sacred Music.)

To be sure, Benedict XVI has an undeniable appreciation for the arts.

"It is important to recognize the ... benefits of introducing young people to children’s classics in literature, to the fine arts and to uplifting music. ... Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour." (Message for World Communications Day, Jan. 24, 2007)

Pope Benedict is a first-rate musician in his own right, and a sophisticated thinker, possessing one of the world's finest minds. But his opinion as to what constitutes "uplifting music" is off-putting and even snobbish to us common folk, who lack his rarified tastes and sensitivities.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In San Diego, A Disingenuous Start to Lent



Bishop Robert H. Brom (left)
Passing the Buck?

By Lisa Haddock

For the Diocese of San Diego, Lenten repentance seems all about “do as I say, not as I do.”

The diocese may try to wiggle out of a court fight with more than 140 alleged sex abuse victims by declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to an Associated Press report published on Feb 19.

In a statement read at Masses throughout his diocese, San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom wrote: “We are painfully aware of the harm that the victims of abuse have suffered, and we want to treat all of them fairly and equitably. At the same time, good stewardship demands that settlements not cripple the ability of the Church to accomplish its mission and ministries. Consequently, we must consider how best to fairly compensate the victims while at the same time not jeopardizing our overall mission. If this cannot be done through settlement negotiations, the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court.”

The statement, issued just before the penitential season of Lent, should raise eyebrows among the faithful.

Church teaching stipulates: “One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much” (Catechism 1459).

Are there two sets of rules operating here? One for the faithful? Another for the hierarchy?

Yeshiva University Law Professor Marci Hamilton argues that the bishop is being inconsistent.

“Brom pits the victims against the parishioners, as if they were somehow adversaries. Of course, this is far from true: The victims were children of past parishioners. And if they had not been brave enough to come forward, then current parishioners' children would continue to be at the same risk as they were. These are two groups joined in a commonality of interest, not two groups at loggerheads.”

As I have written elsewhere in this blog, the laity have the right and the duty to speak out “on matters which pertain to the good of the Church.” They may address their opinions to “the sacred pastors” as well as to the rest of the Christian faithful (Canon Law 212, Paragraph 3).

For the health of the Church, they should do just that.

Read more at Bishop-Accountability.org.

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Novel Explores Sufi Mysticism

Editor's Update: Master of the Jinn is now available in e-book format.

By Irving Karchmar

As a spiritual person and writer, may I commend to you my book, Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel, a mystical adventure tale on the Sufi path of Love. In the name of the Merciful, 10% of all profits go to charity.

Here is a tale set on the Path of the Heart, a mystical adventure wherein a modern-day Sufi master sends seven companions on a quest for the greatest treasure of the ancient world - King Solomon's ring. It is the very same seal ring of a hundred legends, given to King Solomon by God to command the Jinn, those terrifying demons of living fire.

By sea and across deserts, they are led by a strange faqir guide of many names. Through the mightiest of storms and into a lost city, the travelers come at last to the gateway of the Subtle Realm, the land of the Jinn.

But the quest has a strange effect on everyone chosen to go: visions enter their dreams, remembrances and tears fill their hearts, and mysteries abound; unearthly storms and unending night, the Gates of Heaven open at last, and invincible demons of smokeless fire.

It is a tale woven of ancient legends found in the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Koran, and although it is set in the present, the search for the truth of the ring leads them into a circle of ageless destiny, where the companions discover not only the fate of the Jinn, but also the Path of Love and the infinite Mercy of God.

Master of the Jinn Web site
Wikipedia article on Sufism
Read excerpt

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ted Haggard: On the Straight and Narrow?



Above, Ted Haggard in a prayerful moment/Starbulletin.com.


By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor


Disgraced Evangelist Ted Haggard, former head of the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, is straight as a pin. Or so says a pastor who counseled him.

Haggard lost his position at New Life Church in Colorado Springs after he first denied and then admitted sexual impropriety with a male prostitute.

"He is completely heterosexual," said the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur, Colo., in a report published on Feb. 7 by CNN. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

This incident raises the proverbial questions:

Is homosexuality a choice? Can it be cured? Should it be cured?

The vast majority of experts say no. But some religious groups disagree.

Read both sides of the argument:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

No War on Christmas? Think About It

At left, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky/Chai Center of Greater Seattle.

By Lisa Haddock
Faith Forum Editor

Is there a war on Christmas? Some say this issue is a figment of the right-wing imagination. But recent events at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport suggest otherwise.

Responding to a threatened a lawsuit from a Chabad/Lubavitch Hasidic rabbi, Port of Seattle authorities removed Christmas trees.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky was pushing to have a Hanukkah menorah erected at the facility. When officials didn’t comply, the rabbi threatened an immediate court fight. Rather than slugging it out, Sea-Tac took down the decorations. After a huge public outcry, Bogomilsky backed down, and Monday the airport decided to put back the trees.

The rabbi’s attorney, Harvey Grad, said Bogomilsky wasn’t asking for the trees to be removed. The lawyer also complained that the rabbi had received odious calls and messages. According to the now-defunct King County Journal, the rabbi is "trying to figure out how this is consistent with the spirit of Christmas."

I would submit that the spirit of Christmas is not the rabbi’s area of expertise. I also submit that anyone who starts a fight shouldn’t be surprised if he takes a punch or two in the face.

Air travel can be unpleasant at any time of the year. And the Christmas season makes for more stress on the traveler. (And notice that I did say “Christmas.”) The sight of Christmas trees reminds travelers of the reason for their journeys.

They are going to see relatives for a celebration of Christianity’s second-most important feast day. Even for the non-religious, Christmas is a cherished season, brimming with gifts, festive meals and family traditions.

For those who bristle at the suggestion that there is a war on Christmas, I suggest: Prove it.

I wish the rabbi the utmost success in placing his menorah in public places. But don’t make it a fight. Don’t force the issue in court, and don’t do it at the expense of Christmas. And don't be surprised if people take this issue personally.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pat Robertson Claims Super Strength


Pat Robertson claims that protein shakes have made him incredibly strong. (Photo from Christian Broadcasting Network.)


By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network is claiming he can leg press 2,000 pounds – thanks to an amazing “age-defying protein shake.” Sports experts have called this feat impossible.

His Web site presents a video supposedly showing the seventy-something televangelist hoisting 1,000 pounds – with his legs. “Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars [at Regent University], while traveling the globe as a statesman?” the CBN Web site gushes.

Statesman? This year, Robertson made headlines after calling for the death of Hugo Chavez and labeling Ariel Sharon’s stroke divine retribution. What am I missing?

Odd claims are nothing new for the broadcaster, who routinely tells viewers he can see them being healed of their afflictions through a “word of knowledge” from God.

The following are snippets from Robertson's history of oddities.

  • 1981: He forecasts calamities from the Jupiter effect, an alignment of the planets in the solar system. “Some astronomers forecast unusual gravitational pull on our planet when all the planets line up in 1981-the so-called Jupiter effect," Robertson claimed. "This planetary activity could trigger earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and other widespread natural disasters. In short, we will soon be entering turbulent days and what is done in Jesus' name must be done quickly,” Robertson says (see “Sermon From the Satellite”). No disasters occur.
  • 1985: In a TV broadcast, Robertson prayed that Hurricane Gloria be steered away from his headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va. Unfortunately, the storm crashed into Fire Island instead (see “Apocalypse Soon.”)
  • 1986: Robertson reports that God has told him to run for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination -- a bid that ultimately fails. Robertson’s Web site quotes this 1986 statement: “The question for me on this or for that matter on any major decision is simple. ‘What is God's will for me in this?’ Let me assure you that deep in my heart I know God's will for me in this crucial decision and I have -- His further assurance that He will care for, continue, and enlarge the ministry of CBN which is so dear to my heart," the televangelist/politician says. "So now to all of you assembled on this 17th of September, I give you my decision. If by September 17, 1987, one year from today, 3 million registered voters have signed petitions telling me that they will pray -- that they will work -- that they will give toward my election, then I will run as a candidate for the nomination of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States of America.”
  • 2001: In a program aired just days after 9/11, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell show extreme pastoral insensitivity when they blame sin in America for the terrorist attacks.
  • 2006: Robertson forecasts major hurricanes for the U.S. this year. Again, his information source is divine. "I go away at the end of each year to pray, and if I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms. ... They're talking about storms up the East Coast, and there is a very real possibility of a tsunami or serious flooding and storming in the West Coast, as well."
Given Robertson’s long history of strange comments, weird prophecies, and purported direct messages from God Almighty, one wonders why he retains any credibility. Furthermore, why are his odd claims newsworthy? He is hardly a bona fide religious leader. His viewership represents a tiny portion of the world's 2.1 billion Christians.

These claims coming from Pope Benedict -- now that would be news.

Story sources:

Media Matters, storm comments
CNN, 9/11 comments
CBN, age-defying shake, weighlifting photos
Robertson statement, 1988 presidential bid
"Sermon from the Satellite,” Prime Time Preachers by Jeffrey K. Hadden and Charles E. Swann
"Apocalypse Soon," The New York Times
Associated Press photos of Robertson pumping iron, published by the Washington Post

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

McKellen Lambastes Vatican; Critics Pan 'Code'

Leonardo in self portrait. Whose code is it anyway?


By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Ian McKellen has a distinguished acting career, two Oscar nominations and the title Knight Commander of the British Empire. And the openly gay British actor also had some withering comments for the Vatican.

The DaVinci Code star said he was "happy to believe that Jesus was married," the Ottawa Citizen and other news outlets reported. McKellen describes himself as a religious skeptic.

"The Catholic Church has problems with gay people, and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay," McKellen said Thursday (May 18) at a news conference in Cannes, France.

Da Vinci Code star Tom Hanks, who identifies as a Greek Orthodox Christian, added: "Write that down."

Meanwhile, critics are writing down nothing but negative reviews about The Code. The movie has been called grim, bloated and oppressive -- among other things. Hanks has been dubbed dull and wooden. Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday described the two-time Academy Award winner as "startlingly pasty." Worse still, he sleepwalks through the film, Hornaday says.
Director Ron Howard -- another Oscar winner -- had an A list cast, a blockbuster book and plenty of publicity to work with. How do you make a clunker out of that? Some entertainment gurus are predicting the film will be a hit. Moviegoers will determine the verdict at the box office.

Write that down.

Read more about The DaVinci Code on the blog:
Putting 'DaVinci Code' Outrage in Context
'DaVinci Code' Looms on Film Horizon

Check out the press coverage:
Ottawa Citizen
Washington Post, Ann Hornaday review

McKellen's official Web site

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Putting ‘DaVinci’ Outrage in Context



Martin Scorsese, director of The Last Temptation of Christ

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

The DaVinci Code is not the first movie to offend Christians.

Whenever a religious group is depicted in the arts, there’s a controversy. Ron Howard’s The DaVinci Code is only the latest contender.

Remember The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988? Director Martin Scorsese took a beating for his controversial film, based on a 1951 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Last Temptation is a literary work, heavy on the philosophy and artistry. Only eggheads would see it as a page-turner. The novel explores big issues: What if Jesus didn’t start out as the Messiah? What if he overcame an intense internal struggle to become the Messiah?

The novel was considered blasphemous. The Orthodox Church excommunicated Kazantzakis; back in the Fifties, Temptation wound up on the Vatican’s list of banned books. And controversy (which is usually good for business) didn’t help Scorsese. His film grossed a puny $8.37 million in the U.S.

On the other hand, Dan Brown’s book is a mega-hit thriller -- big on the plot twists, word puzzles, and suspense. It’s also a manifesto intent on debunking Christianity. And the movie seems to have that same goal.

The alleged coverup outlined by Brown goes like this: Jesus was just a rabbi; he was married to Mary Magdalene; together, they had a child. To advance his own political ends, the Emperor Constantine made Jesus divine at the Council of Nicea. The Vatican has spent 2,000 years trying to hide these lies.

Just think of the trailers. Highly talented actor Ian McKellen (as gasbag Leigh Teabing) thunders: Witness the biggest coverup in human history.

Many experts in theology, art history, and the Gnostic Gospels say Brown’s conclusions are dead wrong. But little matter. Unless it is a cinematic trainwreck, Howard’s film version will be a smash.

In the meantime, Christian leaders are avoiding the pattern of the post-Muhammad cartoon riots. So far, they are fighting the The DaVinci Code's claims with words.

We'll have to wait to see what happens next.

Official DaVinci Code film site
Author Dan Brown's Web site
Wikipedia article on Nikos Kazantzakis

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Monday, May 15, 2006

'The Da Vinci Code' Looms on Film Horizon

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

The film version of The DaVinci Code will hit theater screens in the U.S. on May 19.

Here's my executive summary of the book -- it's fast-paced, compelling plot, riddled with errors and flat-out slanders about Christianity. If you like word puzzles and conspiracy theories, you'll love this book. If you're looking for an accurate description of Christian history, Scripture, and tradition, look elsewhere.

DaVinci Code author Dan Brown aims his most venomous attack at Opus Dei (OD), a controversial conservative lay Catholic group. OD has drawn criticism from the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN), among other groups. In a free-wheeling blog, Fr. Dan Wauck offers Opus Dei's side of the story.

Father Wauck's Opus Dei blog
Official DaVinci Code film site
Author Dan Brown's Web site

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Meeting the Master (A True Story)



By Irving Karchmar
(copyright 2006, Irving Karchmar; all rights reserved)

On the day before summer, I finally met the Master. And though I have thought of him often and dreamed of him and talked to him in my mind, even missed him as though we were separated family, I had never actually met him nor spoken to him.

Over the years I have read all his books and heard many stories about him. And for many of those years I had written a Sufi novel entitled Master of the Jinn, a project whose research led me to read many Sufi texts, and whose unfolding became almost like a zekr as I worked on it for hours each night. For much of that time I was fortunate enough to live in a khaniqah, whose library and energy and knowledgeable darvishes helped enormously.

Now, I thought, I had created something worthwhile enough so as to be worthy of meeting the Master and being in his company. How little I knew of the Master, or of his loving-kindness.
And so, after ten hours of travel, I arrived in England, and by chance met a fellow darvish who apparently was on the same plane. He saw my sleeping bag and guessed I was going to the same, very crowded khaniqah. There was to be a large gathering of darvishes from all over the world and many brought tents or sleeping bags. Together we traveled to the khaniqah by taxi.

Shortly after we arrived, the Master called us into his room, as he does all darvishes who come from a far distance. We went into the small bedroom of the main house, kissed the threshold, and entered. The Master was dressed in white and sat cross-legged, and we sat on our knees before him. He greeted us warmly, and as he looked at me his face lit up with wide-eyed surprise and joy, as if I were someone he was not expecting but happy to see. Perhaps it was my imagination, but my heart sang. I remembered well the tales of the Master’s glance and attention.

He asked how our trip had been.

“It was a good trip, one I want to make often, inshallah,” my companion said.

“Sufis are always inshallah (God willing),” the Master replied. “There is no need to say it.”

We nodded our heads, and after a few kind words, he smiled and said, “Welcome, then” and waved us out.

As soon as we were outside, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee, as if I had twisted it, though I could not for the life of me remember how. I limped upstairs to get some aspirin, and found a darvish there whom I knew well.

“Do you have another pair of pants with you?” he asked me.

“Only a pair of sweats. Why?”

“Because you have a large tear in yours, on the seat.”

I turned my head to look, and groaned. It was a wide tear.

“Get a needle and thread from someone and sew it,” he suggested.

“What the hell is going on?” I thought, taking the aspirin and changing into sweat pants for the time being.

Once outside, I met a Shaykh I knew walking on the grounds and greeted him happily, kissing his cheeks. He asked how I was doing.

“Well, I’ve been here for half an hour and I’ve already twisted my knee and torn my pants,” I said.

He chuckled, “Such things are common here.”

I borrowed needle and thread from one of the darvishes and walked to the sleeping area to mend the tear. As I limped along the path, I realized suddenly what a fool I had been. I had walked in with pride, and limped out in humility. I had come in arrogance and received torn pants for my folly.

“Thank you, Master!” I cried.

And the words of the great Junayd came to my heart.

“I will go a thousand leagues in falsehood, that one step of the journey may be true.”

Karchmar has been a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order since 1992.


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

What's So Bad About the March of Dimes?

Animal rights activists are continuing their battle against the March of Dimes. But why would anyone target a charity that works to improve the health of babies?

Whose life is more important? A baby's or a lab rat's? And how much pain can we inflict on a living, sentient being -- in the name of medical progress? Can we go to the point of torture? Well, most people involved in the controversy don't want to discuss these points.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine -- an arm of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals -- alleges that the March of Dimes bankrolls cruel, wasteful animal experiments. PETA's view on animal testing is clear. "PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment."

The March of Dimes maintains: "Some of this research involves laboratory animals. The March of Dimes could not fulfill its mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant death without supporting such research."

Nobody needs to wear fur or eat meat. But can medical research move forward without these tests?

PCRM's video about MOD animal experiments
PCRM's statement on animal research
PETA mission statement
March of Dimes statement on biomedical research

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Baptist Press Addresses Gay Sex Scandal

The Baptist Press, official voice of the nation's largest Protestant denomination, takes on the story of Pastor Lonnie Latham. Latham stands accused of soliciting sex from a male police officer posing as a prostitute in Oklahoma City. Latham has resigned from his congregation, South Tulsa (Okla.) Baptist Church. He has also stepped down from executive positions within the denomination. The Southern Baptist Convention is a vocal opponent of homosexual activity and the gay rights movement. Oklahoma is a Southern Baptist stronghold, with fully 30 percent of state residents belonging to the denomination. New Jersey, which has a heavy Roman Catholic presence, has only a few SBC congregations.

Baptist Press story
Original blog post

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ding, Dong NBC's "Book of Daniel" is Dead

Hurrah for the American public. Bad ratings killed NBC's loathsome "Book of Daniel." Good riddance. Note to TV execs -- get a clue.

Read the show's obituary: NBC shuts Book of Daniel

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gay Marriage Foe Accused of Lewdness

Lonnie Latham, a Southern Baptist pastor from Tulsa, Okla., is accused of propositioning an undercover male cop in early January. Latham was arrested in Oklahoma City in an area frequented by gay male prostitutes. Undercover policemen were conducting a sting operation in the area. Latham is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee.

Latham opposes same-sex marriage. He also believes homosexuals should renounce gay life and become born-again Christians. He is also an outspoken critic of gambling. These views are consistent with the teachings of this Evangelical denomination.

The pastor denies the charges.

Read more about the case:
Channel 5, Oklahoma City

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Shut "The Book of Daniel"

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

NBC's "The Book of Daniel" is the most offensive, unbearable show I've seen on network TV. And that includes my childhood years of being forced to watch “Hee Haw.”

Where shall I start?

1. Ethnic stereotypes.
---The only black person on the show is a maid. And of course, she steals from the family and smokes pot. What a fresh portrayal! Why don’t we bring back Prissy from “Gone With the Wind”? "Lordse, we got to have a doctor! I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!"
---The only Italian person on the show is in the Mafia. Italians -- even a priest -- have ties to the Mafia. Quelle unique!

2. Anti-Christian theme.
---Every cleric on the show is morally corrupt. The central character, Father Daniel Webster (how clever), is a pill popper. The female bishop is also a drug user. (Ellen Burstyn, what are you thinking? You're an Oscar-winning actress. Run away from this show!) She's also having an adulterous affair with another bishop (Father Dan's father, of course). The Catholic priest offers to have someone killed by his Mafia friends.

3. Portrayal of Jesus (a series character who regularly appears to the pill-popping padre).
---He is powerless, despite the fact he healed people in the scriptures.
---He is silly and inane.
---His only moral objection to anything on the show is Father Dan's pill-popping.
---He's Jesus -- a rather important figure to 2 billion Christians. Don't mess with him!

The fact that Dan's son is fornicating with a parishioner doesn't bother Jesus Christ. "It's something all kids have to go through," Jesus tells Dan.

Hello, writers!

Submitted for your consideration:
What about Christian teaching on fornication?
What about unplanned pregnancy?
What about STDs?
What about the impropriety of a priest's son cavorting with a parish member?

Pishposh, I guess.

The Father Dan says not a word to his oversexed son. He's more concerned about his daughter's marijuana use. Dad pops Vicodin tabs as if they were popcorn. His wife is a lush. But it's a big deal for his daughter to be involved with pot. Marijuana is illegal as well as harmful to the lungs and memory. But it’s Koolaid compared to highly popular drugs crystal meth and ecstasy. And booze? Come on. We all know what that does to people. So of course, Father D. and wifey are big old hypocrites. What else would Christian parents be?

The networks can run what they like. It's a free country. But I can't imagine why “The Book of Daniel” is on the air. I haven’t been so nauseous since a small plane I was riding in went wacky over some mountains.

The “BOD” reeks of racial, ethnic, and anti-religious bias. Dramatically, it's overwrought. It's like "Dallas Goes to Church." Murder, adultery, drug addiction. Please! Sue Ellen and J.R. strutting the ugliness of their marriage at Southfork Ranch – now that was fun. It was a nighttime soap opera.

“The Book of Daniel” -- ugh -- I don't even have a word for it. Not one I will publish anyway.

I hope other viewers will vote with their remotes so that this dreadful piece of "entertainment" is soon flushed from our airwaves into the sewer of oblivion.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stopping the Tragedy of Modern Slavery



Around the world, roughly 27 million people—including 8.4 million children—are trapped into lives of slavery by threat of violence. By comparison, that's the combined populations of New Jersey and New York state. According to the CIA, 100,000 slaves live in the U.S.

See my original post: "International Slave Trade – Where’s the Outrage?"

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Why Did Child Molesters Remain on the Altar?


Who is Worthy of Holy Communion?

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Since 2002, stories about priests sexually abusing children and young people have flooded the news. These men were often returned to ministry after counseling. All too frequently, they also returned to committing grave crimes against children -- even as they celebrated the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the heart of the Catholic faith. The Second Vatican Council described this Sacrament as “the source and summit of Christian life.” Broadly stated, those who receive Communion and celebrate Mass must be in a state of moral worthiness.

According to Catholic teaching, the bread and wine consecrated at Mass are mystically transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333). Priests stand at the altar in the person of Christ (Catechism, 1548). By invoking the Holy Spirit, they consecrate wafers and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Because of the holiness and centrality of this Sacrament, the Church sets precise rules for who can receive Communion.

According to the Church’s Code of Canon Law (916): “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess.” [Emphasis mine.]

Canon 1395, Paragraph 2, states that a cleric who has committed a sexual offense “by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”

Read more of this article.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Nation of Islam Beliefs vs. Mainstream Islam

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

The Nation of Islam beliefs are significantly different from those held by mainstream Muslims. Here is a brief overview.

Nation of Islam

“We believe that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long-awaited 'Messiah' of the Christians and the "Mahdi" of the Muslims (NOI Web site).”

Mainstream Islam

God has never taken human form.

Nation of Islam

“The Master was preaching this Great Truth of salvation when He met a man named Elijah Poole in Detroit, Michigan. He chose him to be His Divine Representative in continuing this most difficult task of bringing truth and light to His lost and found people. For 3 1/2 years He taught and trained the Honorable Elijah Muhammad night and day into the profound Secret Wisdom of the Reality of God, which included the hidden knowledge of the original people who were the first founders of civilization of our Planet and who had a full knowledge of the Universal Order of Things from the beginning of the Divine Creation (NOI Web site).”

Mainstream Islam

Muhammad was the last prophet of God. “God's final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel,” states Islamicity.com.

Nation of Islam

Originally, all people were black and followed Islam. The center of their world was Mecca. Dr. Yacub, a troublemaker exiled from Mecca, created white people. Whites were destined to persecute blacks until the appearance of Master W.F. Muhammad. Through his messenger Elijah Muhammad, God would provide knowledge to free blacks from their oppression. (The National Review)

White people are a race of devils. “Is it wrong to attribute a predisposition to wheat before it comes up out of the ground? Wheat's characteristics and nature make it wheat. It differs from barley because of its nature. Wheat perpetuates its own characteristics just as the white race does. White people are born devils by nature. They don't become so by deeds. If you never put popcorn in a skillet, it would still be popcorn. Put the heat to it, it will pop. (Malcolm X, Playboy interview, May 1963, pre-conversion to mainstream Islam)”

Mainstream Islam

God created man from a single man and woman. Quran, Yusuf Ali translation, Chapter 4:1: ‘ O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.”

Nation of Islam

“We believe in the resurrection of the dead--not in physical resurrection--but in mental resurrection. We believe that the so-called Negroes are most in need of mental resurrection; therefore they will be resurrected first. (NOI Web site)”

Mainstream Islam

“I do call to witness the Resurrection Day. (Quran 71:1)”

“Has not He, (the same), the power to give life to the dead? (Quran 71:40)”

“If any do deeds of righteousness--be they male or female--and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them. Quran 4:124)”

Islamicity.com, "What Do Muslims Believe?"
Nation of Islam, The Muslim Program
Nation of Islam, history
Beliefnet, Nation of Islam beliefs
Findarticles.com, National Review story, 1994
Malcolm-X.org, Playboy interview

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Farrakhan’s Baggage: What’s All the Fuss?


Minister Louis Farrakhan's portrait from The Final Call, a Nation of Islam publication.

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan acknowledges that he has baggage. But after his Millions More March, he enjoys more mainstream popularity among African-Americans than ever.

The Urban League, NAACP, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton supported the Millions More rally, as did celebrities Will Smith, P. Diddy, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Russell Simmons, and Kanye West.

Just before his Oct. 15 Washington, D.C., rally, Farrakhan appeared on Tavis Smiley’s PBS talk show.

Smiley asked: “… How do you respond to people who say … how can y'all rally around Louis Farrakhan?”

The NOI leader responded, in part: “Today, the condition of the masses of the black and the brown and the poor is such that in my heart, I knew we had to do something about this, so I'm making the call on the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. … I … have made that call, in spite of the baggage that I carry and our disagreements as human beings. ... So I believe, in spite of what they [his critics] say, I would remind them that Jesus said, ‘You can tell a tree by the fruit it bears.’ And if the message is good, the messenger can't be bad.”

Read more of this article.
Return to Current Issues and Controversies.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Kinder, Gentler Louis Farrakhan?


By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Ten years after the Million Man March drew massive crowds to the Mall in Washington, D.C., Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Minister Louis Farrakhan returned to the nation’s capital on Sunday (Oct. 16) to promote his Millions More Movement, CNN reported. This time, men, women, and children of all races were invited.

Farrakhan, a 72-year-old cancer survivor, is trying portraying himself as a unifier. His stated aim is to build a political movement targeted at African-Americans, Native Americans, other people of color, and poor people of all races. The Chicago Tribune quoted Farrakhan as stating: "If we don't make the movement inclusive, then we minimize the potential of leveraging the power of black, brown, red and poor."

No crowd estimates were offered, but the gathering was described as smaller than the Million Man March, which drew between 600,000 and 1 million people, CNN reported.

Farrakhan has a loyal core of support in the Nation of Islam and broader popularity among many African-Americans. U.S. Rep. Mel Watts, D-N.C., singer Erykah Badu, and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were among the speakers at his rally, CNN said. The socially conservative Farrakhan had even agreed to allow gay activist Keith Boykin of the National Black Justice Coalition to take the platform during the 12-hour event, the Advocate (a gay magazine) reported. But at the last moment, Boykin was barred from speaking, sparking anger among gays gathered for the event, the New Standard reported.

But Farrakhan's true purpose remains enigmatic.

Read more of this article.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

How Much More Can U.S. Catholics Take?



Cardinal Roger Mahony, above, has been head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for 20 years.

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

The never-ending story of children and teens abused by priests and other church officials has opened yet another revolting chapter. This time, it’s Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest.

The archdiocese released summaries of personnel records that show it allowed at least eight priests who had been the targets of complaints to remain in active ministry and in contact with children, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday (Oct. 12).

One case involved Father Richard Henry. During the Eighties, the archdiocese received three complaints about Henry, including one from a nun. The sister, who served Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, reported in 1988 that Henry “was partial to boys,” the Times stated.

When that report was made, Cardinal Roger Mahony, the current head of the archdiocese, had been in his post for three years. Henry was allowed to seek therapy and continue in ministry. After a sheriff’s department investigation, Henry pleaded no contest in 1991 to four counts of lewd contact with a child. He served three years behind bars, the Times reported.

The archdiocese faces more than 560 lawsuits from people who allege they were sexually abused as minors. At least 245 clerics are involved. The archdiocese had previously put the number at 219. Seven priests who have been the target of complaints are still in active ministry.

Read more of this article.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Healing With Animals


By Jan Fredericks, M.A., L.P.C.

Animals and people have always shared a special relationship with each other. With the increase of information concerning animals and their ability to heal people psychologically, spiritually and physically, we are becoming more aware of our relationship with all animals in our society.

To understand our culture and how it affects our thinking and values, we need to look at our original relationship with animals. The Creator made all living beings with nefesh chayah, Hebrew for living soul. ( I believe all animals will live eternally.) God gave us dominion over animals, which theologians interpret as being good stewards with compassion. In its context, all life lived in harmony (see Genesis 1:26), and we were made in God's image. All life (human and animal) was also given a plant-based diet (see Genesis 1:29-31a). In Genesis chapter 2:18-19, after God said, “It is not right that the man should be alone,” animals were created. Woman was made as the suitable helper for man and all lived together in harmony.

But, after sin entered the world, the animal/human relationship suffered greatly and has sped on a downward spiral to where we are today. We became desensitized and have failed to restore the harmonious relationship we once had. After the flood, God caused animals to fear man (Genesis 9:2) and Old Testament laws were made to teach compassion for animals. (Article continues.)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Gays Said to Dominate Seminaries

In two 2002 articles, Phil Brennan of Newsmax.com writes that gay men dominate many seminaries and that homosexual activity between students is widespread. As a result, orthodox Catholics are driven away.
  • Good Men

  • Homosexual Culture

  • In a 2004 article, Michael S. Rose writes about a scandal at an Austrian seminary, where a rector and student openly made out at a party. Using a small digital camera, a Polish priest recorded the inappropriate behavior. A subsequent investigation revealed that seminary computers had been used to download 40,000 pornographic pictures. The images included pedophilia and beastiality.
  • The Catholic Church's Abu Ghraib

  • To return to index, click below:
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  • Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Does Barring Gay Priests Solve Abuse Problem?

    By Lisa Haddock
    NJ Faith Forum Editor
    (Copyright Lisa Haddock, 2005; please cite my name, blog, and sources if quoting.)

    Does keeping gay men out of seminaries solve the sexual-abuse crisis the Catholic Church is facing? The short answer is no, but the reasons are more complex. They deserve a lengthy discussion.

    The scandal that broke in 2002 is no doubt driving this attempted purge, which is based on a 1961 Vatican pronouncement.

    “Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty [sex between men and boys], since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers,” the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious wrote. This document, “Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders,” is part of Canon Law Digest 5.

    In response to the scandal, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops commissioned a study; experts found that 81 percent of victims sexually abused by priests were boys, Catholic News Service reported. This percentage, as I will discuss later, is more than double the typical rate for boy victims.

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    Friday, September 30, 2005

    Sex-abuse victims suffer legal setback

    Victims of sexually abusive priests in Pennsylvania lost a battle to let them sue dioceses over old assault cases, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday (Sept. 29). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected their suit (Meehan v. Archdiocese of Philadelphia), which pushed for a suspension of the statute of limitations on the grounds that dioceses concealed the commission of these crimes. Under Pennsylvania law, victims must file suits by the time they reach age 30.

    The case, filed on behalf of 18 victims, was a victory for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A recent grand jury report lambasted the archdiocese for deliberately concealing the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The state Supreme Court ruling protects all dioceses in the state from similar lawsuits, the Inquirer reported.

    David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) stated: “This is a setback for public safety, a victory for child molesters, a relief for duplicitious bishops, and yet another heartbreak for those want to warn families about dangerous predators and who have been and are deeply wounded because of abusive clergy and complicit church officials.

    “There's just one remedy now: State lawmakers must open a ‘window’ so that the victims of horrific sex crimes and deception can have their day in court, expose their abusers, safeguard children, and get justice,” Clohessy said in a statement posted on SNAP’s Web site Wednesday (Sept. 28).

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